Inclusiveness at PPAC with sensory-friendly performances


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — If you have ever been to a live performance, such as a play, musical, or display of acrobatics, you understand there is a lot going on.

And for those living with autism, that added stimuli might be too much to handle — making the experience of going to see a live performance unbearable.

The Providence Performing Arts Center (PPAC) has begun featuring sensory-friendly performances in conjunction with The Autism Project.

On Sunday, PPAC hosted their first-ever sensory-friendly performance, The Acrobats of Cirque-tacular.

Nina Mann, an acrobat, gave Eyewitness News a simple example of how they make their show sensory-friendly.

“In a regular show I would do an act with a balloon that pops,” said Mann.

“We’ve been told the sound of popping balloons can very triggering to kids on the spectrum. That is why we took it out.”

Susan Baylis Jewel, the Family Support Manager with The Autism Project, called Sunday’s performance an exciting opportunity for those affected by autism: “Families are able to bring their children in a judgment-free zone.”

The Executive Director for The Autism Project, Joanne Quinn, said her organization hosted a 90-minute training session with PPAC staff.

“By having the show sensory-friendly we are able to give them [those with autism] information ahead of time,” said Quinn.

“They can come here ahead of time and see where they will sit and sit in the chairs. They will know that there is an out.”

In fact, a “chill zone” was created on each level at PPAC for families to step out during the performance, allowing for a quiet area to reset.

Quinn believes this will be beneficial to parents: “I think all of that information for the parents puts them at ease.”

Late next month, PPAC will host its first-ever sensory-friendly Broadway performance: a sensory-friendly Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas is set for Saturday, December 21, at 11 a.m.

“This is just the first of many to come,” said Dana Brazil, the director of education for PPAC.

“This initiative isn’t something that we are starting to be done with,” she said. “It’s something that we are starting to set forward in motion.”

Brazil is anticipating PPAC will host around two sensory-friendly performances per year.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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